final version of weblog definition

This is the definition of “weblog” I’ve written for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, which is forthcoming in 2005. It’s limited in size and scope: I had to keep to a maximum of 500 words, including the references, and I wrote it for an encyclopedia of narrative. The asterixes indicate cross references to other entries in the encyclopedia.

UPDATE 22/8: I received some useful feedback from the editors and have revised the definition accordingly. Since there are a lot of links to this post, I’m putting the final, final version here at the top of the post, and the draft I sent the editors in June is still here after the horisontal rule.

Weblog

A weblog, or *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first (see temporal ordering). Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers.

Examples of the *genre exist on a continuum from *confessional, online *diaries to logs tracking specific topics or activities through links and commentary. Though weblogs are primarily textual, experimentation with sound, *images, and videos has resulted in related genres such as photoblogs, videoblogs, and audioblogs (see intermediality; media and narrative).

Most weblogs use links generously, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site, often another weblog. Once at a weblog, readers can read on in various orders: chronologically, thematically, by following links between entries or by searching for keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommends. Many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days, or weeks later to read entries written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open-ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing (see narrative structure).

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives, and some are explicitly or implicitly fictional, though the standard genre expectation is non-fiction. Some weblogs create a larger frame for the micro-narratives of individual posts by using a consistent rule to constrain their structure or themes (see Oulipo), thus, Francis Strand connects his stories of life in Sweden by ending each with a Swedish word and its translation. Other weblogs connect frequent but dissimilar entries by making a larger narrative explicit: Flight Risk is about an heiressís escape from her family, The Date Project documents a young manís search for a girlfriend, and Julie Powell narrates her life as she works her way through Julia Childís cookbook.

See also: digital narrative; life story; thematic approaches to narrative

References and Further Reading

Anonymous (2002) The Date Project. <http://thedateproject.blogspot.com/>
Lejeune, Philippe (2000) ìCher Ècran…î Journal personnel, ordinateur, Internet, Paris : Seuil.
Strand, Francis (2003) How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons. <http://francisstrand.blogspot.com/>
ëV., Isabellaí (2003) Sheís a Flight Risk. <http://shes.aflightrisk.org>
Powell, Julie (2003) The Julie/Julia Project. <http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/>
(websites accessed August 2003)

Jill Walker
(501 words)


[original post follows]
Right, this is my final draft of my entry on weblogs for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. I think I’ve got the most important things in, though I’m aching to write much more about lots of it – the social aspects and the network in particular – but I think this is probably what I want in a 500 word for people interested in narrative theory. I’ve added more about the style of writing and the soapbox aspect, as some of you suggested, but I’ve left in the first sentence about the formal qualities of the genre because I think that’s important. Anyway, I’ll read through it again in a few hours when I’ve packed and mowed the lawn and then I’ll send it off. 🙂

Weblog
A weblog, also known as a *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so that the reader sees the most recent post first. The style is typically personal and informal. Freely available tools on the World Wide Web make it easy for anybody to publish their own weblog, so there is a lot of variety in the quality, content and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-nineties and became more widely popular as simple and free publishing tools such as Blogger.com became available towards the turn of the century.

Examples of the genre exist on a continuum from online *diaries that relate the writerís daily activities and experiences to less *confessional weblogs that comment and link to other material, discuss a particular theme or function as soapboxes. In addition to the dominant textual form of weblogs there are experiments with adding sound, images and videos to the genre, resulting in photoblogs, videoblogs and audioblogs.

Each entry in a weblog tends to link to further information. Weblog authors also link to other weblogs that have dealt with similar topics, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site. Once reading a weblog, readers can read in several orders: chronologically, thematically or searching by keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommend, and many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days or weeks later to read entries written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing.

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives. Some weblogs create a larger frame to these micro-narratives by using a consistent rule to constrain their writing. Francis Strand connects his stories of life in Sweden by ending each with a Swedish word and its translation. Other weblogs connect frequent but dissimilar entries by making a larger narrative explicit: The Date Project documents a young manís search for a girlfriend, Julie Powell narrates her life as she works her way through Julia Childís cookbook while Flight Risk is about an heiressís escape from her family.

Further Reading
Anonymous (2002) The Date Project. http://thedateproject.blogspot.com/
Lejeune, Philippe (2000) ìCher Ècran…î Journal personnel, ordinateur, Internet. Paris: …ditions du Seuil.
Strand, Francis (2003) How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons. http://francisstrand.blogspot.com/
V., Isabella (2003) Sheís a Flight Risk. http://shes.aflightrisk.org
Powell, Julie (2003) The Julie/Julia Project. http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/

(500 words)

[Should be revised before publication as more relevant literature will probably be published in the next year or so. Uncertain about including references to actual weblogs ñ since URLs may well change, perhaps it is better to simply give the author and title in the text, and readers can search themselves to see if the weblog is still online? Could raise question of fictionality at end of this entry (readers assume authenticity, anger at fictions, hoaxes, discussions about obligation to tell the truth and so on) but to do that Iíd need to cut out something else. Isabella V. is the pseudonym of the woman who writes Flight Risk, or depending on how you see it, Isabella V. is the name of the narrator and the author is anonymous ñ so Iím not sure how to cite that reference?]

28. June 2003 by Jill
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